Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip occurs when your body produces too much mucus. This mucus then drips down the back of your nose and gather in your throat.

This can cause chronic coughing or throat clearing, and produces a dry, sore throat.

Having mucus in the back of your throat is normal. The glands in your nose and throat produce about  1–2 quarts of mucus per day. This process works to moisten and clear your nasal lining, and trap what is inhaled to protect your lungs from debris and infection.

The process of mucus draining down your throat usually occurs without your knowledge. However, it becomes a problem when your body produces more mucus than it needs.

Postnasal drip can occur as a symptom of many types of conditions. Finding the source of the problem can help identify the right treatment.

This article explains the common symptoms of postnasal drip. It also covers causes, how they're treated, and when you should seek medical advice.

Woman at home feeling her throat

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Symptoms of Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip results when you have excess mucus production in your nose or sinuses. This causes the mucus to accumulate at the back of your throat. The condition triggers a set of reactions that cause irritation and discomfort.

Common symptoms of postnasal drip include:

  • A feeling of mucus dripping down the back of your throat
  • Frequent swallowing
  • Throat clearing
  • Garbled or hoarse speech
  • Dry, sore throat
  • The sensation of a lump in the back of your throat
  • Swelling of the tonsils or other throat tissue

In addition to having more mucus, the quality of your mucus may change with postnasal drip. For instance, mucus that is thicker than usual can add to the discomfort of having a higher than normal quantity of the substance.

Symptoms of Postnasal Drip in Children

Children with symptoms of postnasal drip accompanied by thick or foul-smelling liquid from one side of the nose may have a foreign object stuck in their nose. Common objects like a bean, coin, paper, or small toy can become lodged in the nostrils and interfere with normal breathing. If your child has these symptoms, seek immediate medical care.

Causes of Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip often occurs as a symptom of another acute or chronic health condition. It can also result from structural abnormalities of your sinuses and nose. Often, identifying and treating the underlying cause of postnasal drip resolves the problem. Here are common causes of postnasal drip:


Your body triggers an allergic reaction when it becomes hypersensitive to a specific substance, called an allergen. When you encounter an allergen, your immune system overreacts. It triggers the overproduction of antibodies to protect you from perceived harm.

This causes your body to produce extra mucus to eliminate the foreign substance. The mucus also changes from its normally thin and pale consistency into a thicker, sometimes yellowish, liquid.

Postnasal drip linked to allergies usually occurs as a symptom of hay fever, or allergic rhinitis. This condition is often accompanied by a stuffy, runny nose, and itchy eyes. The condition can be triggered by seasonal or perennial allergens. Examples of these allergens include:


Sinus infections, or sinusitis, are a common cause of postnasal drip. This condition causes an inflammation of the sinuses, which are air-filled cavities in the face. A sinus infection is usually caused by a virus, though it can also result from bacteria.

The germs that trigger sinusitis or an infection of the mucous membranes of the nose and airway can cause inflammation and swelling. The swelling traps the thicker, diseased mucus in the sinuses and pathways from the nose to the throat, where it can cause excess mucus production and irritation.

Acid reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux, is also linked to postnasal drip. It occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. The contents of the stomach acid can cause inflammation and damage the respiratory tract or esophagus.

GERD is worse when you lie down. This position makes it easier for the acid to return to the esophagus and into the back of the throat. When this occurs, symptoms of postnasal drip, including coughing, hoarseness, and throat irritation, can worsen.

Dysphagia in GERD

Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, occurs when food doesn't pass from the mouth to the stomach normally. If you experience a feeling of food getting stuck in your esophagus, seek immediate medical attention. When enough food and stomach acid become lodged in the esophagus, there is a risk of the substances traveling into the lungs. This can cause pneumonia and respiratory failure, which can be fatal.

What Medications Can Cause Postnasal Drip?

Certain medications can cause or irritate nasal symptoms, which can lead to postnasal drip. These medications include:

Changing Medications

If you think your postnasal drip may be caused by a prescribed medication, contact your healthcare provider to discuss alternatives. Never discontinue or change medications without medical advice.

How to Treat Postnasal Drip

Treatment for postnasal drip varies based on the underlying cause of the problem. Your healthcare provider can determine the most appropriate treatment based on your age, medical history, current condition, and other symptoms.

Treatment for Postnasal Drip Caused by Allergies

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be able to treat postnasal drip caused by allergies on your own. If you are taking prescription medications, check with your healthcare provider before using any new over-the-counter medications to ensure they won't cause an interaction.

The following treatments may help improve symptoms of postnasal drip caused by allergies:

Treatment for Postnasal Drip Caused by Infections

Treatment for postnasal drip caused by an infection depends on the type of germs affecting you. Your healthcare provider can determine whether your infection is caused by bacteria, fungi, or a virus.

Bacterial infections usually require treatment with a prescription antibiotic. Symptoms of all types of infections may improve with the following treatments:

  • Using decongestants
  • Taking mucus-thinning medications like Mucinex (guaifenesin)
  • Using nonprescription saline nasal spray
  • Using a nasal irrigation device, such as a neti pot, to flush mucus and germs out of sinuses
  • Drinking more water to help thin out thick mucous
  • Avoiding caffeine and diuretics to prevent the removal of fluid from your body
  • Using a humidifier to increase moisture in the air

Treatment for Postnasal Drip Caused by Acid Reflux

Treating postnasal drip caused by acid reflux requires treating the digestive condition itself. The following treatments may provide relief:

Treatment for Postnasal Drip Caused by Structural Abnormalities

When postnasal drip persists and doesn't improve with treatment, your condition may be related to a structural abnormality in your airway. In this case, surgical intervention may be advised to correct the problem and treat your postnasal drip.

Common types of surgery for postnasal drip include:

Complications and Risk Factors Associated with Postnasal Drip

Postnasal drip usually isn't dangerous. However, the discomfort and irritation caused by symptoms may disrupt your sleep and interfere with your ability to eat a healthy diet.

In some cases, postnasal drip may be a symptom of nasal polyps. These growths develop when the mucous membranes in the nasal passages and sinuses remain inflamed.

Having one or more of the following characteristics increases your risk of developing postnasal drip:

  • Acid reflux
  • Advanced age
  • Allergies
  • Cold or infection
  • Exposure to environmental irritants
  • Pregnancy
  • Reliance on medications known to increase postnasal drip
  • Sinusitis
  • Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Structural abnormalities in your airway
  • Weakened immune system

Are There Tests to Diagnose Postnasal Drip?

Diagnosing postnasal drip usually begins with a complete physical examination, including medical history, to determine the cause of your symptoms.

Additional diagnostic tests used to determine the cause of postnasal drip may include:

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Contact your healthcare provider if you have signs of postnasal drip and/or any of the following symptoms:

  • Bloody mucus
  • Foul-smelling mucus
  • High fever
  • Intense facial pain or pressure
  • Neck stiffness
  • Swelling or redness around one or both eyes
  • Symptoms that don't improve with treatment
  • Trouble thinking
  • Vision changes
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath


Postnasal drip can cause a chronic dry, sore throat with frequent coughing or throat clearing. It can make you feel like there is a constant drip at the back of your throat.

The discomfort that results can make it hard to get quality sleep, which can affect your health and well-being. The chronic sore throat can also make you irritable and unable to eat the right foods.

Postnasal drip occurs as a symptom of allergies and other chronic health problems. Finding and treating the underlying problem can often improve your throat and nasal symptoms. Home remedies and prescription drugs can also provide relief.

When drugs and other treatments don't help, surgery may be advised. The type of surgery used depends on the problem that needs to be fixed.

A Word From Verywell

Postnasal drip can make you uncomfortable during the day and restless at night. It can lead to irritability and frustration, as well.

Seeking an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward achieving relief from your symptoms. Your healthcare provider can determine whether your symptoms are related to an allergy, chronic health condition, or physical abnormality. Based on your diagnosis, they can advise the right therapies for your symptoms.

Proven treatments for postnasal drip can make a significant difference in the way you feel during the day and the rest you get at night.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I treat postnasal drip with home remedies?

    Many people succeed in treating post nasal drip with home remedies. However, if your postnasal drip persists despite treatment, you should consult your healthcare provider. You should also seek medical advice before starting home remedies if you're at an advanced age, take prescription medication or have an underlying health condition.

  • What symptoms indicate that my postnasal drip needs medical attention?

    Contact your medical provider if you have symptoms of postnasal drip accompanied by signs of infection. This can include a high fever, nausea, or foul-smelling mucus. Other symptoms, such as a stiff neck, intense facial pressure, or trouble thinking or seeing, also require medical attention.

  • Why is drinking water important to relieve postnasal drip?

    Staying hydrated is an important part of treating postnasal drip. Water helps to thin mucus thickened by infection. It can also help keep a sore throat moistened and relieve the dripping feeling in the back of your throat.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sinus infection (sinusitis).

  5. NIH News in Health. Marvels of mucus and plegm.

  6. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Symptoms of GERD.

  7. International Foundation of Gastrointestinal Disorders. Diet & lifestyle changes.

  8. School of Medicine and Public Health University of Wisconsin-Madison. Swallowing problems increase risk of death, nursing home admissions.

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By Anna Giorgi
Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer who specializes in health and lifestyle topics. Her experience includes over 25 years of writing on health and wellness-related subjects for consumers and medical professionals, in addition to holding positions in healthcare communications.